OAKLAND COUNTY — Now more than ever, a good credit score matters.
A poor credit score will make securing a loan, receiving utility services, paying bills and maybe even getting a job a lot harder than they need to be.
As a way to combat this, Southfield Human Services Director Rhonda Terry teamed up with Oakland-Livingston Human Services Agency to host a free Zoom financial education webinar May 20.
Topics discussed included understanding the basics of credit reporting agencies, credit scoring and the Fair Credit Reporting Act; identifying ways to build and repair your credit history; and recognizing what to do in the event of identity theft.
“This class is going to talk a lot about credit, credit reports and credit laws,” said OLHSA Assistant Director for Sustainable Housing Kay Simmons. “We really go into how credit reports work, what the credit laws mean and how you can utilize that information to make your credit work for you. We got into common credit issues and solutions you can go into that are available to you for these common credit issues.”
The Oakland-Livingston Human Services Agency does a financial education class once per quarter. Things like debt reduction and debt negotiations have been talked about in other classes, along with how to budget money and manage savings accounts.
Terry said she used to partner with the agency before COVID-19 and would lead homebuyer workshops, foreclosure workshops and financial literacy workshops. She has also partnered with the human services agency to distribute nonperishable food to those in need.
Terry has worked with several residents who have run into financial tumult from issues that were out of their control. Through her partnership with the Oakland-Livingston Human Services Agency, she hopes to continue to teach those who need it most.
“I worked with a lot of residents who, for example, (before) COVID, they paid their rent on time every month,” she said. “Then for the last three months they weren’t able to pay and that was reported on their credit report, so if they do get evicted or have to move somewhere else, there’s a bad mark on their credit report for something that was out of their control.”
If dealing with poor credit, Terry said the first step has to be obtaining a free copy of your credit report. From there, she urged going over the report with a fine-toothed comb to make sure every single item on the report should be there. If something looks unfamiliar, it needs to be disputed with the creditor. All items that look familiar need to be satisfied with some type of payment.
Through the webinar, Simmons hopes to empower people to understand what goes into their credit score and to learn about what they can do to help improve it. Simmons said helping people take ownership of their credit is an empowering feeling.
“The biggest impact on your credit has to do with how you pay back your credit,” she said. “If you’re struggling with not being able to pay your credit, contact the creditors and see if you can make any kind of an arrangement. Don’t just bury your head in the sand but be in communication with your creditors. Review your credit report on a regular basis so you know what’s in there and you’re not surprised. Fraud is a big thing, so it’s really important that you know what’s in your credit report.”
For more information on upcoming OLHSA events, visit www.olhsa.org.